LL4L6      Half Unit
Theory of Human Rights Law

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Kai Moller NAB7.01


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Human Rights and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Some knowledge of human rights law of any jurisdiction may be helpful, but is not essential. A knowledge of philosophy is not required.

Course content

The course will provide an introduction to the philosophy of human rights and theoretical issues in human rights law. The emphasis is on a combination of law and theory; to this end, each seminar will rely on a mixture of cases from various jurisdictions and theoretical and philosophical materials. The overarching questions to be examined are to what extent current philosophical theories of human rights can illuminate our understanding of the cases and legal doctrines, and to what extent the cases and doctrines can help improving the theoretical and philosophical understanding of human rights. Topics to be discussed will include: James Griffin's Theory of Human Rights; Ronald Dworkin's Theory of Rights as Trumps; Balancing and Proportionality; Human Rights and Judicial Review I (The American Perspective); Human Rights and Judicial Review II (The European Perspective); Absolute Rights.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

There will be a reading week in week 6. 

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word essay.

Indicative reading

The course will rely on both cases from various jurisdictions and articles and book chapters from authors including Ronald Dworkin, Robert Alexy, James Griffin, Mattias Kumm, Jeremy Waldron and Frances Kamm.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2017/18: 16

Average class size 2017/18: 16

Controlled access 2017/18: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills